'Rogue' Trump Justice Dept faces probes

Ex-attorney-general Bill Barr says doesn't recall any congressman's phone records being subpoenaed.
Ex-attorney-general Bill Barr says doesn't recall any congressman's phone records being subpoenaed.

The top two Democrats in the US Congress have vowed to probe the "rogue" actions of the Justice Department during former president Donald Trump's term, including its move to seize the communications records of Democratic lawmakers.

Those reviews will run parallel with an investigation by the department's own internal watchdog into its moves to subpoena phone records of representatives Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, as part of a probe into leaks of classified information.

The Justice Department under former attorneys-general William Barr and Jeff Sessions was regularly accused of putting Trump's personal and political interests ahead of the law.

"The Justice Department has been rogue under President Trump, understand that, in so many respects. This is just another manifestation of their rogue activity," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNN on Sunday.

Her Senate counterpart, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, vowed to subpoena both Barr and Sessions.

"This was nothing less than a gross abuse of power, an assault on the separation of powers," Schumer told a news conference in New York. "Sessions and Barr must testify under oath as part of a formal congressional investigation."

A White House official on Friday criticised the Trump administration actions as "appalling".

Pelosi said the probe by the department's inspector-general, Michael Horowitz, would be important but was not a substitute for congressional investigation.

Pelosi said it was "beyond belief" for Barr or Sessions to say they knew nothing about it. Barr told Politico on Friday he had no recollection of any congressman's phone records being subpoenaed.

Pelosi sidestepped a question about whether they would be subpoenaed, saying she hoped the pair would appear voluntarily.

Horowitz's office said on Friday it was launching a review of the department's use of subpoenas to obtain the communications records of both lawmakers and journalists.

The New York Times on Thursday reported the Trump-era Justice Department subpoenaed Apple for data on Schiff and Swalwell.

Apple also told Donald McGahn, a Trump-era White House counsel, that the Justice Department had subpoenaed information about him in early 2018 and barred the company from notifying him of the request, the Times reported on Sunday.

McGahn left the White House in 2018 after it emerged he was a star witness for special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Australian Associated Press